Plato the Philosopher

Plato the Philosopher

Plato(429-347) was born in Athens to a wealthy family. A young Arthenian like him would have been expected to pursue a career in politics, but Plato followed the profession of his mentor Socrates, who was a philosopher.

Plato's writings about philosophy are dialogues in which two or more characters discuss a philosophical issue. The foremost character in most of Plato's writings is Socrates. Plato himself never speaks in the dialogues, which forces scholars to face the question of how much is Plato's own philosophy, and how much is just a report on Socrates. Many believe that Plato's earlier writings is historically correct accounts of Socrates' teachings. They also believe that Socrates became a literary character later on for Plato's own purposes.

Plato is famous for his theory on forms - abstract, immaterial things imitated by the physical objects of this world.

Another well-known Platonic theory is that all knowledge is recollection. Plato believed in a soul which was immaterial and existed independent of the body. Before entering the body the soul knew the forms, without the use of the senses. When the human body comes to know something, it is because of the recollection by the soul of what it knew before it became embodied.

Plato also divided the soul into three parts - the appetitive part(sensual pleasures like food, drink, and sex), the spiritual part(glory and honor), and the rational part(understanding of forms). In his dialogue, The Republic, Plato describes what it means for a soul to be just, by making and analogy between a just city and a just soul. According this analogy the perfectly just city has three groups of citizens that correspond to the parts of the soul. In the same way that the three parts of the soul harmoniously interact, he believed the groups of citizens should interact. In both instances Plato believed that the rational should dominate.

Interesting facts:

  1. Plato does appear in one of his dialogues called Apology, which described the trial of Socrates where he is sentenced to death. Plato says nothing in the dialogue, but the fact that he was part of it means that he was present at the hearing.
  2. Plato mentored Aristotle(384-322 BC).

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    Source: The Intellectual Devotional

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